Tales of the Unexpected - Bulgaria

Published: July 9th 2015
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So much is unexpected when you travel and days are full of surprises. I would never have thought of coming to Bulgaria if it was not for an invitation to stay with some good friends who,have a house here in Veliko Tărnovo (VT) . So I have to admit I didn't really have a clue what to expect .. Never been to Eastern Europe ... Would I mange the language ?? writing in Cyrillic script ??? thinking ex communist country , drabness , poverty. But heck if Lorriane and Keith chose to have a house here it can't be too bad. And of course it's been a fantastic revelation and I have enjoyed my time here immensely. Now I know a little bit of history of the country, have experienced kindness and friendliness of the Bulgarian people , eaten some great food , drank some great beers and been wowed by some wonderful scenery.

My good experiences started in Sofia airport where I had been warned about Taxi scams so I went straight to a little office of the official OK taxi company in the hall after coming through Customs.. There a smiley lady gave me a slip of paper with my taxi number on and my destination Central Bus Station.... She said your taxi is outside and so it was..nice smiley taxi driver speaking to me in English and when we got to the bus station he insisted on taking my case in for me and helped me get the bus ticket . I had half an hour wait and then was on a bus to VT.

Veliko Tărnovo used to be the capital of Bulgaria and it is a very picturesque town perched on a several hilltops with the River Yantra winding below ... A town has been here for thousands of year so there is a very old history and of courses Bulgaria has had many invaders and after a period of Orthodox Christianitry was under Ottoman rule and then a revolution overturned that. Bulgaria became a communist state in the 20th century and eventually is now a member of the European Community. It can be seen that there is a legacy from communist times with some areas appearing very poor and rundown ... Tatty buildings, some falling down but look beyond that and I have seen see a country developing and growing and some unexpected suprising finds on my travels.

Some of my surprises

I walked into my host's house and there was this open window wall with a view across the river on top of a hill ...extensive castle walls , castle and a church with a tower and this is what I am looking at every day...Tsarevets Hilltop Fortress And then more surprise the whole hillside lit up at night with a son et lumiere show...it seemed like our own private performance. Hard to beat.

A few miles up the road and here was the most wonderful site Preobrazhenski Monastery... Originally built in 14 C it was destroyed by the Ottomans with a rebuild starting in 1800s. It is nice to have a "first" on my travels and this was a

"first" ...I had never seen an Orthodox Church decorated completely with icons and frescoes. Here they were also doing restoration so it was absolutely stunning to see. Perched up high on an escarpment and looking across a wooded valley it was perfect.

Driving from Sofia you are on a vast flat plain , which seemed mainly agricultural, surrounded by a mountain range and wooded hillsides stretching mile after mile. There were only a few towns on the 4 hour coach ride from Sofia to VT which surprised me ..I expected a more densely populated country.

Walk around Veliko Tarnovo and there are old wooden buildings , houses tumbling down towards the river ... Restaurants with balconies giving amazing views and good food too. Not enough time to visit all the museums but I did squeeze in a visit to the art gallery and enjoyed some beautiful haunting watercolours by an artist Ivan Milev... Good to see some of the art of a country unknown to me.

It's not all donkeys and horses pulling carts here in fact I have only seen one... main roads are good but then get off onto a country road and the surface might be a bit cracked with weeds growing but compensating for that fields of sunflowers fishing by and thanks Keith for stopping so I could get the photos. Then in the middle of what seems like nowhere another surprise we turn into a gate and there is a beautifully landscaped place , lots of trees for shade with a restaurant and a swimming pool ...perfect for a day where it was 34 deg In Emen.

I love Open Air museums ... Surprise surprise there is one a a few miles away in Etar or Etura Complex where all sorts of buildings have been reconstructed to show the crafts of bygone years , many of them powered by water wheels... Even was an ingenious washing machine for your laundry!! And weavers, bakers, coppersmiths, bell makers ... Bulgarian Bells are famous and much more. A joy to explore.

Not a museum but a living village, Bozhentsi, is the cutest place... More wooden house ...over 100 restored ....cobbled lanes , flowers spilling out of containers and over carts and lots of cafes and restaurants there selling delicious coffee and traditional walnut cake , walnut biscuits and walnut and honey pastries....MMMMM!! This is my kind of place to wander around.

As I chat to my friends I can see that Bulgaria is a country which calls for much more time to explore its towns and landscapes and I will mention one more thing which is how reasonable it is to stay here, I am going on to Plovdiv tomorrow and have a B&B for £19 a night , three of us for coffee and cakes would be about £4.50 and three of us for dinner with starters and beers and wine has been on average about £20. A very nice bottle of beer is about 2 leva and thats about 80p and I have discovered Grapefruit Beer ...sounds horrible but it is gorgeous and on a day like today 36 deg it was so welcome.

2 more days in Plovdiv and then 2 in Sofia ...so more news to come later.

Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 26


9th July 2015

There are some countries where it's religious paintings give a unique insight into its history and beliefs. This pic seems to give such a peek.
9th July 2015

Thank you Lynne. Your blog is a refreshing update on this country as a travel destination. Great pics.
9th July 2015

Bulgarian surprise!
Wow, Lynne! What a lovely discovery! I would never have thought of going to Bulgaria, but you have changed my mind! It seems to offer a real discovery opportunity, and the fact that it is affordable is great news! One day........ (grin!). I'm working on getting my leg working better (lots of physio and hydro) so that I will be able to walk well enough to do some more traveling! We will talk about your trip amongst the "girls" tomorrow night. Hugs, Maureen.
11th July 2015

wonderful adventure
Sounds like a beautiful place to explore. Good to get of the popular track sometimes. The grapefruit beer sounds pretty good to me. cheers!!! guess you've mastered that word in Bulgarian! xx see you soon.x
12th July 2015

Angie, Lime and mint cider is pretty good, too ....no haven't learnt the word, only know one beer Kaminitza , very hard not to know any of the language and Cyrillic script is pretty much a mystery to me !
11th July 2015

Tales from the road
So good to see you traveling, writing and exploring again, still. We are eager to go to Eastern Europe. The area is so rich in history. The churches sound lovely. Eager to read more.
12th July 2015

Yes , Dave and MJ, the churches all painted and with icons are fabulous , always good to se something you haven't seen before and this is new to me . Have eaten some great food .. It's more hearty traditional food not gourmet and I know you like foodie pics so will include them in next blog.
14th July 2015

thanks for telling us of another place to put on our list of places to see!
Sounds like you have been having a wonderful trip - places that just "happen" on our travels many times are the best in the end. Glad you have friends there to help show you around - that is always a nice way to get an introduction into a new place. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip. Thanks for taking us along with you!
14th July 2015

forgot to mention the photos!
You have some wonderful photos that give a great "flavor" for the country - thanks again

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